Posted in TV Stuff

Lucky Number 7 part 4

 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Cast:

Kerr Avon –  Paul Darrow

Vila Restal–  Michael Keating

Soolin  –  Glynis Barber

Del Tarrant  –  Steven Pacey

Dayna Mellanby  –  Josette Simon

Zen/ Orac – Peter Tuddenham

Servalan – Jacqueline Pearce

If you expected season 4 to either start or end happily has clearly no idea what this show was. The season started with the crew of the destroyed Liberator having being shipwrecked on Terminal. Their only way off was a booby trapped shuttle, the destruction of which destroyed the only shelter on Terminal, costing the life of Cally, who was killed off-screen. The crew are then rescued by a man called Dorien and his ship the Scorpio, controlled by the computer Slave. He brings them aboard and flies him to his home base on the planet Xenon. There they meet Soolin, a  gun for hire working with Dorien, or maybe more. It’s a trap of course and Dorien ends up being more of a Dorien Gray sort of character. The team defeat him and get a base, a ship and with Soolin, a new member of the team. We also get new guns, new teleporter effects, new opening credits and a little bit more of status quo than the aimless wandering of the 3rd season.

The opening titles and production design tell us we’re very much in the 1980s, fitting since the first episode aired on September 28 1981. The team is now very much Avon’s group, with it being a looser group of people bound by experience and mutual interests. They are brigands for sure with heists and jewellery robberies as much the plot as anything rebellious. There’s a bit more focus on character, with Avon becoming more amoral and pragmatic, whilst the others are less trusting of him. The conflicts feel less forced and their more desperate actions making more sense. With Scorpio being less of a warship and more a high speed get away car, there’s less emphasis on space battles and more on running and the dangers of going up against warships and this increases the sense of danger to the cast, all but two of the original 7 having already being killed or driven off. As this band’s fortunes wane, Servalan crops up under a pseudonym to rebuild her powerbase as the Federation is once more expanding. This resurgence galvanises the team to get serious about dealing with them, the back half of the season being about getting resources and allies in order to oppose the Federation once more. This sort of gets full circle, with Avon taking Blake’s role, very much aware that no one is going to rally around him. When that all turns to chaos and disaster Avon turns to the one person he knows could lead this Rebel Alliance, Roj Blake. Blake has been busy, building an army of criminals, gunfighters and malcontents under the pretence of being a bounty hunter. He’s getting ready for his return just as Avon turns up, once again without a ship and his crew scattered. He believes Blake has betrayed him, but it’s Blake that’s been betrayed and the final episode of the season and the series as a whole ends in a shoot out. Well it was never going to be a happy ending was it?

With the pacing being 70’s and the effects being low budget 80’s the cast really had to do all of the heavy lifting. Paul Darrow is having a ball as Avon, all sarcastic Flash Gordon and Michael Keating is solid as the cowardly Vila, who is really only with Avon for safety, but even he as a bit of a hero moment in the last episode, not that it does him any good. Stephen Pacey’s Tarrant is only there as a necessary foil for Avon and we don’t really get to know Soolin too well, we are told she’s a gunfighter, but there’s little to show that at all. The real loser of the season is Josette Simon, who’s role as Dayna seem reduced to damsel in distress one episode and blank cardboard cut out the next. I could say that the female characters don’t do well in this season, were it not for Jacqueline Pearce taking chunks out of the scenery as the gloriously over the top Servalan. Much like the Scorpio’s crew, she has to come back from the abyss to rebuild her life and she does so with a large amount of gusto, owning the screen with the full knowledge of what kind of show she’s in, but having as much fun as Darrow in their scenes. Apart from the last episode, it’s very much Avon vs Servalan and the show works better when the pair of them are on screen.

Overall, I enjoyed this season more than 3 and feel that the show was just getting to grips with what it wanted to be just as it was coming to an end, the dour endings, the hopelessness of the battle against a vast enemy and the underdog natures of the good guys (we were never going to call them heroes, were we?) all made this something very different to what came before and it’s tone and scope wouldn’t have anything similar to it on screen for decades.

It was an interesting watch and I am glad I got to do it. I don’t know that I would ever recommend it to everyone, but if you were a fan of 70’s/80’s Doctor Who, you could do worse.

Once again, thanks to the host of the Palace of Glittering Delights  podcast for getting me onto this program and please check his show out, it’s funny, honest and full of fun stuff that you may have forgotten about, or are glad that someone else remembers.

 

Ta Ta for Now internet people, work is a’calling and apparently they’re expecting me to earn my wages today.

Advertisements
Posted in TV Stuff

Lucky Number 7: Part 3

Part 1 here

Part 2 here

Cast:

Kerr Avon –  Paul Darrow

Vila Restal–  Michael Keating

Cally  –  Jan Chappel

Del Tarrant  –  Steven Pacey

Dayna Mellanby  –  Josette Simon

Zen/ Orac – Peter Tuddenham

Servalan – Jacqueline Pearce

Airing 7 January 1980 Aftermath kicked off season 3, a season that took the show in a very different direction. Gone from the series were Gareth Thomas, Sally Knyvette, David Jackson and Brian Crouch, each written out or killed off. Thomas and Knyvette were the leads of the show and their decision to leave left the show without much of the show’s cast and raison detre. This season the focus shifted to Kerr Avon who took the lead protagonist role. Without Travis, the villain of the piece was former Supreme Commander and presently Federation President Servalan.

The series takes place in the aftermath of a galactic war, started at the end of season 2. The Federation is in pieces, the attacking aliens defeated and the crew of the Liberator is scattered. Avon, Cally, Villa and Orac return and are joined by naive, but lethal Dayna and the cocky space-pirate Tarrant. This new crew lacks the ongoing goals of the old one, some wanting revenge on Servalan, others just wanting some profit out of it all.

There’s a greater sense of fun to this series as well as an attempt to tell stories that aren’t Blake’s war on the Federation. Free from Blake’s shadow Avon becomes more of a leader, his loyalty to his team based on their skills rather than sentiment. His relationship with Servalan simmers with sexual tension and mutual admiration. These are both ambitious survivors who will stop at nothing to get what they want. Darrow and Pierce own their roles and play them with an understated charm, which swings wildly to scenery chewing quite easily. Dayna lacks consistent characterisation and Tarrant tries the whole season to take the ship and crew from Avon who has no time for the games and lets him be in charge, up until it’s time for him not to be. It’s interesting, but graes on you after a while. As well as feeling different, the show looks very different, the main  Liberator set is the same, but the costumes vary episode by episode with varying degrees of success. The other returning cast members are at home with the roles, with Villa being exactly as he always was, a bit of a coward and the voice of regular folk in this show, but Cally adds a cynical resignation to her character, someone who has lost time and time again and doesn’t know how many more battles she has left in her, or even what she is fighting for.

 

It was an uneven season, with many lows and highs. It suffered due to the loss of Blake from Blake’s 7, but honestly not as much as it could have. His absence became a character as much as he had been for the last season and the difference was more than made up by giving Paul Darrow’s Avon more screen time. After building the team for a season it all seemed to come apart right at the end with Avon keeping the team in the dark, the Liberator and it’s AI Zen lost and the team stranded after learning after a year of wondering that Blake is indeed dead. All hope seems lost, but this was in keeping with how the series has been up to that point.

Before I watched the series, I was advised that season 2 was the peak, but I will be honest I found this season more enjoyable. It had a few twists, such as Cally being saved on a medical ship at the start of the season, only to find Servalan on it and the later ending up on a planet that used strangers as organ-banks for the rich. There were fun moments with Villa getting the girl, well for a little while. The villains were quite villainous, with Servalan wiping out the population of Cally’s homeworld in her quest to rebuild and expand the Terran Federation. Or Colin Baker showing up as a mad space-pirate who ended up blowing himself to pieces. There’s fun and a silliness to it. It remains not a good show, but being three quarters done, am invested and want to see how it all goes badly wrong for this plucky band of fairly reluctant rebels. I will go back for season 4 because without Gan, without Blake, without Jenna, without Zen and without the Liberator, I want to know what happens next and it’s always good when a show makes you feel that way.

Posted in Comics n Stuff, TV Stuff

Well that was unnecessarily dark: Or, I really enjoyed Titans

A few years back, Marvel made a deal with Netflix and made some TV shows Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and the Punisher. They were gritty and less family friendly that the MCU movies and dealt with themes of guilt, PTSD, race and the effect violence has on you and those around you. Each one had a strong first season, which myself and the MIGHTY Rosie binge watched at the first opportunity. The second seasons and the Defenders series were less strong and were more of slog to get through, to such an extent that it took two months to watch Luke Cage and I gave up on Iron Fist, bypassing Punisher altogether. It wasn’t that they were good, it’s just they kinda struggled to have the same impact. I didn’t feel I had to watch the next one and there seemed less and less reason to carry on after the story had been told.

I tried some of the other shows in a similar vein, with Runaways being such a faithful adaptation that all it did is make you feel you had already watched it. Black Lightning came next which felt too similiar to other shows to be it’s own thing. Then came Cloak and Dagger which was also faithful to it’s source material in that it was overly preachy with uninteresting lead characters. So by the time that Titans was announced I was somewhat less than optimistic.

Titans was originally the Teen Titans which was a bunch of sidekicks including the original Robin (partner to Batman) Aqualad (sidekick to Aquaman), Speedy (sidekick to Green Arrow), Kid Flash (nephew of the Flash) and Wonder Girl (sidekick of/younger version of Wonder Woman) which was as bizarre as Silver Age Bob Haney could make it. Then came the New Teen Titans, which kept some of those characters (Robin, Kid Flash & Wonder Girl), Doom Patrol alum Beast Boy and some new characters (Cyborg, Raven and Starfire) who were created by the new creative team Marv Wolfman and George Perez. It was a massive success for DC when they needed one and the characters blossomed into success stories.

There are other iterations of the Titans, but to be honest, whenever everyone talks about the Teen Titans, this is the version they are talking about. The excellent cartoon series Teen Titans and it’s successor the risable Teen Titans Go (Don’t care, still hate it.) contained most of that line-up. So when the TV was announced, this was where the line-up would come from. Still less optimistic.

Then came the trailer and some screen shots and then came the internet fandom bitching and moaning, too grim and gritty, too off model yadda yadda yadda. So again, my expectations were so low that it was more of a question of ‘might as well’.

But it was actually good. There was the story of Raven, who was revamped as a gothy teen and the death of her stepmother, which brings her into contact with a Detroit detective called Dick Grayson, who up until a couple of years ago was Robin, a role that has left him tortured by the violence he has committed and yet also addicted to that violence. As he realises the danger he is in they flee, meeting up with Hawk and Dove first them colliding with Beast Boy and Starfire as Rachel’s past comes for her. As well as Hawk and Dove, we get a look at the Doom Patrol and Wonder Girl, with the added bonus of Jason (the second Robin) Todd who is exactly as obnoxious as you expect.

The dark tone, the team-less team and the fact that these characters work best as animated ones are all reasons that this shouldn’t have worked and yet. Each character gets their own unique spin with Starfire being unaware of her past through most of the season and Beast Boy being traumatised by something he does in his animal form. We also see that the life Batman leads can do so much harm to those around it. Robin isn’t the swashbuckling boy wonder of old, but a man suffering tremendously with PTSD and guilt. This isn’t the Robin who softened the Batman’s edge, he’s the weapon Batman forged him into. We have a unnaturally powerful girl, a woman who burns like the sun and a boy who can be a green tiger once he’s stripped off, but the scariest is Robin who can and will do brutal harm with abandon. This version of Robin isn’t what I expected, but it was compelling. That’s a microcosm of this whole show. Unexpected and compelling. The violence is brutal, but in a way that feels earned. These guys are doing violent things, mostly for their own reasons and there is no sound effect projected into the air that softens it. It talks about the damage it does, both to the body and mind and I found the whole thing fascinating.

The pacing is tight, with one episode’s exception and after each episode, I checked the time to see if I can watch another one and when I couldn’t, I was disappointed. This was dark, unrelentingly so at times, but this was the best comic-related TV series that I have seen since the first couple of Marvel Netflix shows. I would highly recommend this, even if the characters haven’t grabbed you in other incarnations, because this is a show that made me give a toss about Hawk and Dove and I didn’t think that was possible to be perfectly honest.

It’s on Netflix here in blighty, but I assume it’s available elsewhere and is well worth checking out. Fair warning, there’s a cliffhanger.

Posted in TV Stuff, Uncategorized

Lucky Number 7 Part 2

Part 1 is here

It took me a while after finishing season one, before I could start watching season two, for reasons that can be considered quite obvious if you know what happened in November. But once I had got back into the swing of things, I was once again hooked. Was this out of appreciation for the quality of the show? Or the cultural rubbernecking of watching a pretty naff production? I genuinely can’t decide, but I have enjoyed this show again.

Cast:

Roj Blake –  Gareth Thomas

Kerr Avon –  Paul Darrow

Jenna Stannis   – Sally Knyvette

Vila Restal–  Michael Keating

Cally  –  Jan Chappel

Oleg Gan -David Jackson

Zen/ Orac – Peter Tuddenham

Servalan – Jacqueline Pearce

Travis -Brian Croucher

Debuting on 9th Jan 1979 (40 years before I watched it) Redemption opened the season with the builders of the Liberator coming back to retrieve it, giving us new villains in the System. After this it was back to war on the Federation, personified by Supreme Commander Servalan and her attack dog Travis, this time played by a different actor in a very Darren from Bewitched kind of way. We also get new outfits  and Orac gets a more prominent role. To be honest, the whole thing gets a upgrade in terms of writing and in places performances. We get more nuance from the team who waver in their support of Blake, especially when halfway through the season their mission and Blake’s single-minded fanatacism gets Gan killed. Blake has to pick himself back up and the team at times shows signs of cracking apart.

Travis also gets more screen time as he pivots from fugitive to secret weapon to fugitive again and we see his and Blake’s singlemindedness do nothing but harm to them. Blake and Avon also butt heads more as Avon tires of the idealism that threatens to decend into bloody revolution. The season leads us closer to the idea that Blake isn’t the hero that he makes himself out to be and he becomes more and more comfortable with the idea that the Federation isn’t going down without a whole lot of innocent people being killed.

We still have the problems with pacing, lack of decent fight choreography and bizarre directing choices and there’s more than a few racially insensitive moments, but by and large this show stands up better in it’s second season that it ever did in it’s first. The whole thing comes to a head with it’s final episode Star One, which saw the departure of more than one member of the cast.

The season ends on something of a cliff-hanger, with the crew forced to abandon their plan to cripple the Federation, when it becomes apparent that they need it intact to deal with an even greater threat as an external threat looms over the whole galaxy.

Much like the first season, this is a uneven affair. The actors for the most part give it their all, with Paul Darrow trying to out arch everyone and Jacqueline Pearce looking very slender for someone feasting so heavily on the scenery. It’s a better season as the show starts to shape itself into something new and hopefully better.

I enjoyed it better than the first one and am now a lot more invested in it, I’m hoping that’s a good thing?

Season three is next, wish me luck.

 

Posted in TV Stuff

For the Geek in me, 2018 was awesome part 2: TV

​In a ‘challenging’ year there have been a number of times I needed to get out of my own head and just enjoy this and whilst pickings have been slim, what I have found to enjoy I really have enjoyed. While I have watched a lot of continuing stuff from previous years, there was also a few new shows to enjoy.

Doctor Who


I am treating this as a new series, with the entire new cast and producer. After the up and frequent downs of Capaldi’s era, a change was needed. We ended up with a surprisingly enjoyable Bradley Walsh along with a pair of relatively unknown actors as companions, with Jodie Whittaker excelling as the newly female Doctor. It’s a lighthearted show with moments of depth and pathos. This back to basics approach has left me as excited and it’s nice to be excited about Doctor Who again.

Strong

I am not a fan of ‘reality’ TV and so this show with it’s contrived premise and forced tensions should have been unwatchable, but I found this rivetting. Eight women of various fitness levels and backgrounds are paired with eight personal trainers of differing disciplines to compete in teams of two in a series of fitness based competitions to win up to $500,000.

It’s heavily product placed and much of the drama is contrived, but with its theme of empowerment, making positive changes and competition moving you forward it was a surprisingly entertaining show. Watching these women grow in confidence as they acquired the strength they felt they lacked was really satisfying. This was a show that proves that whatever health-based changes you make to your body, it’s the changes to your mind that matter the most.

You’re the Worst


I wasn’t sure what to make of this show when I caught it at the start of the year. It was a romantic comedy, with mostly unlikeable characters. To be honest, that sounds like most romantic comedies to me, but these characters are meant to be unlikeable. Publicist Gretchen and moderately successful author Jimmy are the worst people any of their friends know and sort of end up together without really trying. Add in Jimmy’s flatmate the well meaning veteran Edgar and Gretchen’s best friend Lyndsay who is trying her best to be happy in a marriage that she’s not really invested in, but lords her getting married first over her older sister, Jimmy’s ex. No one here is nice, or trying to be a better person, they’re either oblivous, narcissistic or some combination of both. There’s a season long narrative, but that sort of gives the series a nice ending point and so when the 2nd season started last month, I decided to leave it at one season which I enjoyed. It’s not for everyone, but I really did enjoy this.

Roast Battle

Jimmy Carr has made a career out of being a little nastier than his peers. From his insulting introductions on 8 out of 10 Cats does Countdown, to his relaunch of Your Face or Mine alongside Katherine Ryan, he’s best known for nasty jokes, quick one-liners and being singled out for tax avoidance. He takes that talent for tearing people a new one to it’s natural extension with Roast Battle. Roast Battle isn’t original, it comes from an american show with Jeff Ross and Brian Moses, the latter being on here as a referee. The concept is simple, two comedians trade insults and barbed jokes, getting five jokes each with little to no restrictions and the panel (made up of Jimmy Carr, Katherine Ryan and someone known to misbehave in public, we’ve had Russell Brand and Johnathan Ross so far) judge the winner. The jokes are cutting and quite often below the belt. A particular highlight was Bobby Mair and his wife Harriet against eachother and her best line being “You look adopted.” the whole crowd went “Oooooh” at that one. There’s been best friends, girlfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife and at one point father and son. There’s bad language and savage jokes aplenty, but none of it feels mean spirited. This is sparring as much as anything else and it’s made me laugh as hard as anything else this year.

A Discovery of Witches

There are very few tropes that get an airing as often as vampires and other supernaturals living in secret. Twilight, Moonlight, Blood Ties, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Vampire DIaries, Midnight Texas, True Blood and others besides, so it wasn’t particularly something I had any real interest in, when the marketing started. That said, like the good little geek I am, I gave it a go. There wasn’t the usual flashy effects from day one, the nighttime settings and the angry and tortured vampire. This was mostly set in Oxford, during the day and the vampire was calm and composed the whole time. This was about a society of vampires, witches and demons co-existing through compromise and strict segregation. Diana Bishop (a witch) tries to research a book on the history of alchemy and this brings year into contacts with Matthew Clairmont (a vampire) who needs it for his research into the declining numbers of vampires, witches and demons. This book is wanted by nearly everyone on each side and a massive game of politics and magic grows into a war that threatens the peace between the creatures and the safety of this witch and vampire, who find themselves drawn to one another.

This show is beautifully shot and acted with conviction and nuance by a very capable cast working from a fascinating story with more than a few twists and turns which left the first season with something of a cliffhanger, which I only realised was a season ender after the episode finished. With DVDs, streaming services and catch up TV, I very rarely have anything like a regular schedule for any Tv, but this was a show that the MIGHTY Rosie and I watched this religiously.

New TV this year was very much about quality over quantity, but there was a lot of good stuff as there is every year and no doubt lots and lots of things that I missed as well as stuff that started last year that continued to entertain and with news series slated to start soon and new series of current favourites like Star Trek Discovery, Bojack Horseman and Orville either starting soon or already started, 2019 looks to be another embarassment of riches.

Two down, one to go and it’s back to the cinema.

Posted in Podcasts, Shared Stuff, TV Stuff

Podcast a-go-go

As I wrote in a previous post, my affection for Star Trek goes quite a way quite back. The Next Generation was where I really grew to love Trek and one of my favourite podcasters has recently done an episode of his excellent Palace of Glittering Delights all about TNG and it really is worth a listen. TNG was never a perfect show, but with over 180 episodes and 4 movies, there was some great stuff in.here and he looks at 10 he enjoyed. I have an order I listen to podcasts in, being so behind on my subscriptions, but Palace always jumps the queue.
[Palace of Glittering Delights] 101 – Top Ten (ish) Treks II

http://podplayer.net/?id=58481977 via @PodcastAddict

Posted in TV Stuff

I believe in redemption: Or I enjoyed Star Trek Discovery

Trek and Me:

As a longtime fan of sci-fi and similar genres, it’s not going to be shocking information that I was a fan of Star Trek. I was for many years a Trekkie and feel no more embarassment about that, than I do anything else I am a fan of. By that I mean, deeply embrassed in the past, but a lot less concerned about people’s opinion now. Whilst Star Trek was on telly when I was younger, it wasn’t until The Next Generation started in 1987 that I really started to get into Star Trek. With it’s hopeful future, high concept sci-fi ideas and cool technology, there was a lot for me to like, it even had a number of alien characters for my less socially confident self could identify with. The show went from strength to strength and this spin off itself had a spin off, the excellent Deep Space 9. It peaked at that point and for me the less said about Voyager and Enterprise the better. For many years Trek was the only game in town for quality TV sci-fi, so it kind of got away with coasting from time to time, when other sci-fi TV and films started getting better, Trek didn’t keep up, so when Enterprise called it a day at 4 years old, I was quite sanguine about the whole thing, we got over 28 seasons of enjoyable TV and ten or so movies, I think we did alright and so Star Trek kind of went away.

Years went by and then the JJ Abrams reboot happened, recastings and hand-wavy alternate universes gave us new Trek, but with all the old names and it was …good. The first film stands up as a good space opera movie, with action and some small amount of pathos and a little fun here and there, but didn’t feel like Trek, the second one wasn’t better in that regard, the third one, Star Trek Beyond, felt a little more like real Star Trek, but the writing was on the wall and with all sorts of problems with the casting and the like, it felt like movie Trek was about to go the way of TV Trek and I was okay with that, Star Trek was a TV thing anyway, so it not being on at the pictures was no great loss, I mean with the MCU and Star Wars doing so well, it wasn’t as if I didn’t have enough to fill up my Blu-Ray collection.

But really, Star Trek was and really should be a TV show, it was more cerebral, more episodic and was made to have a large cast, that didn’t really need a star. Then we heard the news, Star Trek was coming back to the small screen on a streaming service, then the horror for the non-Americans, it was a streaming service we didn’t get. Fortunately the ever expanding Netflix got the international nights and along with all the old shows, we got something unexpected, for the first time in ten years, new Trek on TV. For the first time in a while, Star Trek was exciting again.

The show itself.

Warning, spoilers

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

Set just before the Original series, in the 2250’s, this was the story of Michael Burnham, the adopted daughter of Sarek of Vulcan, who had become the 1st officer of the USS Shenzhou under it’s captain Philippa Georgiou. Whilst surveying a binary star system, the ship encounters Klingons. These Klingons under the leadership of zealot T’Kuvma are trying to unite the great houses of Quo’nos and the best way to do that is to find a common foe, in this case the United Federation of Planets. Michael sees this heading towards a fight and tries to strike first, to avoid diplomacy and meet the Klingons as they would meet them. This goes badly and this ill-advised course of events, leads to a state of war between the Federation and the Klingon empire, which was of course what T’Kuvma wanted all along. After shooting her superior officer and her attempts to make things right getting her captain killed, Michael is arrested for treason, stripped of her commission and sentenced to prison for the rest of her life, all as the Federation she did this all for is plunged into a war that Starfleet (mostly at this point being explorers rather than soldiers) is ill-equipped to fight.

6 Months later, she is on a shuttle being moved to another ship, when it’s attacked by a Klingon vessel and is rescued by the USS Discovery, under the command of Gabriel Lorca, who see’s Michael as useful to him. Michael is uneasy, seeing many of her old crew on Discovery, including it’s 1st officer is Mr Saru, her old subordinate on the Shenzhou. Lorca offers her a chance a redemption, a way to win the war and explore the universe once more. She’s given quarters, which she shares with an incredibly chatty cadet called Tilly and an assignment in engineering with the less than cheerful Lt Paul Stamets. The first season of Discovery is essentially Michael’s redemption, her second chance to do the right thing, for the right reasons.

There’s the usual easter eggs, with appearances by Spock’s parents, Harry Mudd as well as many mentions of familar worlds and races, but there’s also a lot of new. The uniforms are not the old two piece bright colours and the Klingons also get quite the new look. There’s a bleaker tone, as if a brighter world has been tarnished by war, but still yearns to gleam. We also get looks as what it means to be a human raised by aliens, what war does to good people and also how compassion for our enemy might be the only thing that seperates us from them. We see matter of fact depictions of gay marriage, sensitive handlings of post traumatic stress disorder and what different people are okay living with in order to keep themselves and their way of life alive.

It isn’t Star Trek of old, it isn’t Rodenberry’s way, but it is compelling, it is interesting and it is a welcome return to Trek on TV. It starts well, takes several twists and turns and ends up as single season that tells an interesting story about redemption, about principles and about compassion.

This could have been a disaster (cough Enterprise cough) but instead was a thoughtful 15 part story that showed me that my love of Star Trek was an ongoing thing, rather than something a bit of my history. When I heard that season 2 was coming in January, I was actually excited about it.

It’s not it’s episodic antecedents, but if you have ever enjoyed Trek, you’ll find a lot of the good is still there, if you haven’t then it’s different enough from what it was to win new fans. It’s easy to find on Netflix here in the UK and it’s well worth seeking out.

Posted in TV Stuff

5 Good Reboots

It’s hard to recapture the magic needed to make a great TV show. That has never, ever stopped the skilled and the unskilled having a go at it again and again.

Whilst most are ridiculous car-crashes (cough Charlie’s Angels) there are those that are actually decent enough in and of themselves and can almost stand alongside the originals.

The Obvious: Battlestar Galactica

A soup to nuts Reboot of the 70’s cult classic, this took familiar names and took them to a darker and less camp exploration of survival at the bitter edge.

The Recent One: Lethal Weapon

A Reboot of a film rather than a TV show this had the madcap action of the films, but a deeper look at the effects of depression and PTSD was with it. It was funny and moving in equal measure and never treated the subject matter lightly.

The CGI One: Captain Scarlet

Captain Scarlet was a bleak almost noirish spy-fi series from the creator of Thunderbirds and more often than not, pulled no punches. It wasn’t as kid friendly as the other shows from Gerry Anderson and this relaunch followed suit, adding more modern sensibilities and more in depth characterisation. It’s worth checking out.

The Rom-Com one: Lois & Clark the New Adventures of Superman

After the earnestness of George Reeves in the 1950’s, the 90’s Reboot took a very His Girl Friday approach to the early years of Superman. Dean Cain was innoffensively bland as Clark as well as Superman, but it was Terri Hatcher’s Lois Lane that stole much of the show with her portrayal of a workaholic who’s life outside of work was a disaster area.

The Continuation One: Doctor Who

For 25 years Doctor Who was a mainstay of BBC TV, before it died a slow death of low quality and lower ratings. It took a couple of decades to get back to the idea of making good Who to come back around again. This show was accessible enough to appeal to new fans, but felt enough like the old show to appeal to the old guard, it was eventually connected to the older show making it just as much a continuation as a Reboot.

There are other examples of good relaunches and so many more of bad ones, which are guaranteed to mean that more ill-advised reboots are coming, but maybe, just maybe there are some diamonds in that rough.

Posted in TV Stuff

Lucky Number 7 Part 1

Something I had been thinking about doing.

A guy I know on Facebook has a podcast (to be fair that covers 40% of the people I know on facebook) on a recent-ish episode he talked about shows that are, could be, and shouldn’t be re-booted and one of the ones he mentioned was 70’s low budget sci-fi ‘classic’ Blake’s 7. Now I have seen an episode here and there, nothing really grabbed me, so I moved on. It is often referenced, considered a cult classic by many, but the stink of 70’s TV sci-fi hung over it, low budget, low action and low quality, so I never really thought it worth my time.

Now when the podcast mentioned it, a curious part of me decided to give it a try. It was easy to do, given that almost the whole thing is on YouTube.

The show itself is something of an oddity in a number of ways and within a single episode had subverted my expectations and by the second, I was hooked. It occurred to me to write about it, the way I wrote about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, so that’s what I intend to do.

So let’s do that with Season 1.

Cast:

Roj Blake –  Gareth Thomas

Kerr Avon –  Paul Darrow

Jenna Stannis   – Sally Knyvette

Vila Restal–  Michael Keating

Cally  –  Jan Chappel

Oleg Gan -David Jackson

Zen/ Orac – Peter Tuddenham

Servalan – Jacqueline Pearce

Travis -Stephen Greiff

Season one started with The Way Back which aired in January 1978. The world of Blake’s 7 is a far future dystopia, with humanity spread out to the stars, but the majority of humanoid life being ruled by the tyrannical Federation. Most people are okay with this, mostly because the populace are eating food laced with drugs that promote obediance and lower resistance. This is the story of Roj Blake, who was something of an activist leader, but whose movement was violently put down by the Federation’s security people. He was arrested and before he was tried, subjected to horrifying mind control techniques, then he testified, showing remorse and singing the praises of the compassionate and merciful Federation. Many potential dissidents learn the lesson, don’t screw with the state, you will not win. He’s then completely brain neutered, put on the drugged food and lives a quiet uninteresting life. This is all before the first episode.

Some survivors of Blake’s original group find him and bring him back into the fold, they are quickly massacred and Blake arrested, for the crime of being brought to an activism meeting. Realising the PR nightmare this entails, the Federation try some dirty tricks and frame him for child abuse. Do they place pictures in his belongings? No. What they do is using the same brainwashing technology implant false memories of abuse in the minds of 4 children. Think about that for one second. That would mean that 4 children suffer the horrors of surviving abuse, which will most likely stay with them for their entire lives for what is essentially the political act of smearing a dissenting voice. When the trial comes, well it’s not really much in question and Blake is sentenced to a prison planet. His lawyer starts to get suspicious, but is killed along with his wife. Blake is our hero, Blake is a broken man who is a convicted sex offender and is on his way to prison. That’s episode 1.

Episodes 2 through 4 give us the rest of the team, smuggler Jenna Stannis, thief Vila Restal, freedom fighter Cally, violent murderer Oleg Gan and amoral hacker Kerr Avon. All but Cally are on the prison ship with Blake and he escapes onto a conveniently abandoned space ship. On the ship is it’s AI who is soon called Zen. With his memories returning and his outrage growing, Blake decides to use this alien ship, dubbed the Liberator as a weapon against the Federation. With nowhere else to go, Cally, Avon, Vila, Jenna and Gan join this crusade.

7 against the tyrants, or killers and thieves turned terrorists attack the legitimate government? Both are true and the story keeps this bleak tone through the season. This is the brainchild of Terry Nation, the man who brought us the Daleks and it has that feel to the whole season. Blake isn’t really a hero here, he’s angry and wants revenge, he may not be wrong to want it, but that is what he is after. He doesn’t fight for a better world, just the destruction of the one he was in. Most of the cast, including Blake are fairly bland and inoffensive as characters, many of the team follow the charismatic Blake because of him and you get the feeling if he was doing something else, they’d help with that instead. With the cast and premise in place, we then start getting some sci-fi tropes and stories that we kind of expect, the kind of half Star Trek, half Battlestar Galactica stuff that you get with a TV show like this. So that also means we get villains, here we get the obsessive arch-nemesis Space Commander Travis, who chases Blake with the tenacity of a dog chasing a ball, he’s sent after the team by Supreme Commander Servalan, who plays the role as if she’s auditioning for Dynasty, all ballgowns and femme fatale.

Normally I would site stand-out episodes here, but with only 13 episodes, there isn’t much in the way of episodes you can ignore out of hand. The quality varies from episode to episode and the pacing does leave something to be desired, but the cast are earnest enough to make it work and look ordinary enough to make it relatable. There are no pretty boys here, this is average looking people, middle aged men and more than one guy a few pounds over fighting weight. In a TV landscape of unnaturally pretty  people in brightly coloured sets in an upbeat-ish world and there’s none of that here and it’s refreshing.

There are a few standout performances though, Servalan is clearly having so much fun here, all sexy and cold-blooded, long before V and Dynasty made these things staples of 80’s TV and the morally grey Avon is one of the best characters in this, with his dry delivery and understandable issues with how the rest of the team operate. We can’t all be Blake, most of us can however empathise with Avon.

Is this show for everyone? I can’t imagine that. Is this a polished show with top line effects? Oh lord no, this is a sci-fi show on a 70’s budget. Is this the greatest show on TV? No, this isn’t high art, this is a bit of a pop-culture car-wreck and for all those reasons I really enjoyed it.

I’ve enjoyed the hell out of watching this and am going to carry on with it all. Was quite happy to find it all on YouTube, because I’d be hard pressed to consider this worth putting out hard cash or shelf space for.

Bye for now internet people.

Posted in TV Stuff

Champions of S.H.I.E.L.D. part 5

There are spoilers, since the series hasn’t finished that long ago here in Blighty.

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agent Phil Coulson – Clark Gregg

Agent Melinda May –  Ming Na Wen

Agent Leopold Fitz   – Ian De Caestecker

Agent Gemma Simmons–  Elizabeth Henstridge

Daisy ‘Quake’ Johnson  –  Chloe Bennett

Alfonso ‘Mack’ MacKenzie –Henry Simmons

Elena ‘Yo-Yo’ Rodrigues – Natalia Cordova

Zeke Shaw                      – Jeff Ward

Recurring Cast:

Grant Ward –Catherine Dent

Glen Talbot – Adrian Pasdar

Enoch         –  Joel Stoffer

Cassius       –  Dominic Rains

Ruby Hale   –  Dove Cameron

Overview: Having done the destruction of S.H.I.E.L.D. in season one, it’s resurrection in two, the Inhumans in three, magic, robots and Hydra in four, there wasn’t much that the show hadn’t looked at in the Marvel Universe, with two exceptions, space and the future, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when they did it in season five. Back to being a rag-tag group of scrappy underdogs, the team found themselves in a space-station run by the oppressive Kree, who were mining the place for Inhumans to be used as weapons or slaves. The team arrives on the station thanks to one of the monoliths, last used in season three to transport people to Maveth. This one seemed only to take people 70 years into the future and it’s not a rosy one. Earth was destroyed shortly after they left and they are in an old S.H.I.E.L.D. lighthouse facility, which was part of the remains of Earth’s carcass. So we are dealing with ideas of predestination, paradox, aliens and the aftermath of the Framework and it’s lingering effects.

Initial Status Quo: Episodes 1-10 The team are in the future, the Kree are in charge, Inhumans are currency and the only hope for the team is the help of Zeke (a local to that time who is cynical to the point of sci-fi trope) and the less than coherent visions of Robin, an old woman where the team are and a little girl in the past. The team have to do whatever good they can, as well as find some way to return to their own time and maybe, prevent the destruction of the Earth.

Twist: They soon learn that not only is S.H.I.E.L.D. blamed for the Earth’s fate, but in the time they are in they had already returned home and failed to prevent it, they are in a time-loop, proved by YoYo’s existence in the future, killed and resurrected by the Kree with her arms missing and her life filled with pain and regret. They get home, now once more fugitives in an old S.H.I.E.L.D. base (the same Lighthouse from the future) determined to prevent the future they witnessed

Second Status Quo: Episodes 11-20 The team return with Zeke and start to piece together how the Earth is broken up and deal with a gravitational anomaly in the basement.

Twist 2: After hosting the Ghost Rider, Coulson is dying and the day the team come back, YoYo is maimed, losing her arms, just like her future self had done and the team have to do with the last remnants of Hydra, as well as a Coalition of alien races, including the Kree.

Twist 3: Zeke Shaw is the Grandson of Fitz and Simmons, who are married as they return.

Finale: Episodes 21-22 The team reach the point where the Earth is lost, but it’s not S.H.I.E.L.D. that will do it, it’s Graviton, the mix of the Gravitonium from season one and Glenn Talbot, who is ready to power up and save the world from the threat that the Coalition fears, the mad Titan Thanos. But Thanos isn’t the problem, Graviton is and the team has to face their former friend to literally save the world, knowing that every time this has been done, they have failed and not all of them make it out alive.

Overall: This is where you could end the series, everyone gets an arc, from Coulson accepting his fate, to everyone else trying to save him. Melinda goes from being the coldest of warriors to embracing her love for Coulson and the idea that in the future she would be Robin’s mum. Simmons and Mack only become more themselves, while YoYo strays and Fitz comes to the realisation that he is still the villain he was in the Framework, not the hero that Simmons sees him as. Even Quake and Zeke go from hostile to friends as Zeke realises he loves her, almost as much as he loves living in the green and pleasant land that is the past. It’s the strongest the series has been in regards to characterisation and still keeps the action and sci-fi flavour strong with returns from the Absorbing Man, Deathlok and Lance Hunter as well as new characters like the Kree, the Remoraks, Enoch and Noah and Flint. If this is where the series ended, that would have been a strong way to go, but it looks like ratings were strong enough to give it one more go, but we don’t get a teaser for the new series. The second life of Philip J Coulson was a five year romp through the side streets of the Marvel Universe and am glad this seeming end of his personal journey was so much fun to walk through.

Stand out Episodes:

Orientation: A cynical and almost beaten team (less Fitz) arrive in a desolate future, the odds are against them and there are many unknown dangers.

Rewind: We learn what happened to Fitz as he and Lance Hunter attempt a prison break and 75 year rescue mission.

The Real Deal: Coulson faces the idea that the whole series is just his mind coping with his death at the hands of Loki as he lies bleeding on the operating table. It’s believe that, or believe all the stuff that’s happened to him since then. Then Deathlok arrives and the series gets to episode 100.

Rise and Shine: General Hale’s life is shown to us as she realises that she isn’t going to be able to save the world on her own.

The End: Graviton is ready to save the world, he might just destroy the whole planet to do it as the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. make a desperate attempt to stop him and save lives, not all of them make it out of there alive.

Next Time: I have no idea, the only original cast members left are Simmons and Quake and who knows what the deal with S.H.I.E.L.D. is anymore.